Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Beauty of a Small Town

Puffmonkey and I headed down to the emergency shelter today. We couldn’t reach anyone on the phone and decided to just drive there halfway expecting to be turned around and halfway expecting to be put to work.

If what we’re being told is correct, this was the worst tornado to hit our state in recorded history. 120 buildings were destroyed. Many of those were homes. We arrived at the shelter around noon and there seemed to be a serious lack of victims.

Don’t mistake my intentions. I’m glad there weren’t that many people, but after hurricanes and recent natural disasters we expected long lines of people in need. On one end of the cafeteria there were twelve large tables piled high with donations with more donations stowed underneath. On the other end there were six tables loaded with food. There had to be twenty feet of palates of water. Unilever (Lipton) showed up with cases of soap, shampoo and deodorants. Starbucks showed up with a donation of coffee. Outback Steak House showed up with grills and hot plates and fed us Caesar salad, BBQ chicken and wonderful steaks. Churches showed up in organized groups. One set of chaplains had a tent, water, and grills set up outside. Private citizens and churches showed up with all sorts of household items from toys to feminine hygiene products. Volunteers and donations exceeded the needs of the community.

This excess of generosity was not due to over-blown reporting of tragedy. It was due to an underestimation of human compassion. Suffolk, Virginia is the largest town, in miles, in Hampton Roads (and I think the state), but it is the smallest in population in Hampton Roads (not the state). If a family lost their home another family took them in. Churches have rosters of people offering displaced families homes. Navy wives stepped up to help Navy families. Army wives stepped up to help Army families. If my information is correct, there are more offers of housing than there are displaced families.

One family, an immigrant family, lost everything in six minutes yesterday. They lost their nail salon and their home. At least two members of the family were injured. They had a tiny infant and volunteers doted on them. I washed bottles and helped gather water for formula.

At nine o’clock this morning, the shelter had people, but no donations. Some of the volunteers ran to stores and purchased items. Some others made phone calls. By noon the shelter was overrun with donations.

Puffmonkey and I stood in people’s faces until they gave us tasks to do. When that didn’t work, we took initiative and found things to do. Victims who had shelter but lacked food, personal hygiene items, and clothing filtered in during the day. She and I would talk to them and prompt them to take what they needed. We could usually tell who was a volunteer and who was a victim. Victims looked dazed and confused whereas the volunteers looked tired, slightly bored, and ready to help some more. I wasn’t sure which overwhelmed the victims more…the disaster or the outpouring of support. One gentleman stood amongst the donations and seemed utterly confused. I asked him, “How hard were you hit, hon?”

I kept him talking as I handed him comfort kits provided by the Red Cross. I found out about his family as I gathered toys for his kids. Many of the victims didn’t seem to realize they needed items until we asked them if they had shampoo. These items are things that are usually kept in the home. One doesn’t realize they’re missing soap until they reach for what isn’t there. Puff and I loaded people up with things that they needed while pointing out food, cots, and showers.

The family with the infant had bags of things for the little one. No one donated formula and some volunteers went to the store and bought them formula. We waited on them like they were royalty. No one is limping to a trash can on my watch!

This outpouring of compassion should not be taken as an excuse to not donate time, items or money during a disaster. Suffolk was lucky in its unluckiness. Other towns and other disasters are not so lucky. I lived through Hurricane Isabel and had to help people out of their homes because organized relief efforts couldn’t reach them. I’ve had to stand in the piercing rain and 75 mph winds and clear a road with a hacksaw because organized efforts couldn’t get there. My family and I had to take it upon ourselves to find people water and organize food prep and distribution because others were too shocked to do it.

Before Puff and I headed out for home we spoke with the other volunteers. We were willing to stay overnight at the shelter and help, but we weren’t needed. People from the Red Cross, Social Services, Churches, the school and even the Department of Corrections all had representatives there. All of them were shocked to find out Puff and I were two random strangers who came into help. One lady said, “Oh? You two are real volunteers and I think you did more work than anyone else.”

Puff said, “Everyone has a job to do and we found ours.”

I think that sums up disasters quite nicely. Everyone does have a job to do. Find yours.

Monday, April 28, 2008


By now many of you have heard about the storms near me. I’m fine. My family is fine. Our property is fine. My friends are all fine. Folgers is fine. The worst of the damage is terribly close to me and affects my life in so much that roads are closed and shopping has been destroyed. That’s nothing compared to what some people are dealing with.

Let’s all take a moment and say a prayer, send positive thoughts, or do whatever your faith encourages you to do for the 200 (approximately) injured people and all of the families who have been left homeless in the wake of these tornados.

I’m trying to reach the Red Cross to find out if they need volunteers at the emergency shelter. So far, I’ve been told to contact a man in the gymnasium...no number, mind you. JUST the last name of the man in "the gymnasium" and he can tell me if volunteers are needed. Living in a small town is an adjustment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

File this under awesome!

Here's my interview in the Gay and Lesbian Times. Tim Parks was a wonderful interviewer.

Not dead yet!

Whoa…yeah…I’m not dead, yet. LOL!

Life is a funny thing, ya know. You settled down in a routine and think you can coast a while with everything being status quo. Then, something happens and tosses everything in a tizzy.

As many of you know, I’ve separated from my husband. Needless to say, that involved a move. A friend of mine, recently single, and another friend of mine, also recently single, decided we’d all make great roommates. Father Bryan moved at the same time I moved and we helped each other move. He’s living in a place that better fits his personality, but isn’t too far for visits. Thus began the “move that never ends”.

Once I get into a routine and something breaks it, it’s very difficult for me to get back into a routine. When another author pointed out that I hadn’t updated jack-squat since mid-Feb, I realized I REALLY needed to make a better effort at getting back into my routine. I apologize for causing worry in those who have contacted me to make sure I was still breathing.

I’ve been busy. (When have I not said that?) Between the separation, the move that never ends, working (not as hard as I should) on edits, Rascal going through his whole “I want the world to know I hate moving” phase, and making time in my life for Folgers…I’ve been MIA on my blogs. (Folgers: The best part of waking up is Folgers in your Cup. You fill in the blanks.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of poor writing discipline and, let me cut myself a little slack here, an example of when life explodes all over the place. I now live in a very rural area where the cows and alpacas outnumber the people. It’s taken a bit to adjust to rural life, but I’m enjoying it thus far.

Oh, and did I mention a hacker attack of a very personal nature, my desk falling apart during the move (I’m currently working on half the space I’m accustomed to with it propped up by boxes), a death threat, and trying to switch from night shift to day shift. Yeah…life has been like that. LOL!

Story Updates:

About to Sin: I’ve heard back from one beta. There are a few minor corrections suggested by him and then it’s back to waiting on the other betas. I’ll wait another week and drop a line asking if they’ve forgotten about me. If I don’t hear back from them shortly, I’ll have to face agents and publishers without full beta attention.

Personal Demon: In the hands of my editor. The artwork is in and we’re hoping for the anthology to be released mid to late 2008.

Full Circle: In the hands of my editor being brought into Freya’s Bower’s house style. We’re hoping for re-release later this year.

Tainted Past: Currently undergoing plot edits and in my hands. I’m going to say we’re hoping for release later this year, but my gut tells me early next year.

Selling Foxx: Currently in the hands of my editor and we’re expecting that anthology to be out in the next few months. The last date I heard was July, but I don’t know how solid that was. So, when Coming Together with Pride is released, I’ll let you know. That will be both an e-book and a paper book. You’ll be able to get the ebook a couple of months before the paper book will be on Amazon.

Next WIP: Other than About to Sin, I’ll be giving a bulk of my attention to my comedy sci-fi story. I have a lot of dark titles coming out and I don’t want readers to think I only write dark fiction. I want a snarky comedy in there so that my author brand doesn’t get pigeonholed.

Frankly, I’m doing quite well and emotionally I feel as if I’m in a better place than I have been in a long time. I’m just having difficulty getting my act together after this latest life interruption. I’m feeling the itch to write when I’m unable to get to a keyboard or too tired to see straight. All in all, life has been good the past few months and I hope the same holds true for all of you.